Hello friends. We’re traveling today to one of my favorite regions in the world of wine: Tokaji (approximate location here).
Like most, I was initially seduced by the otherworldly sticky wines from this region, part of the holy trinity of botrytis-affected sweet wines (Sauternes and Trockenbeerenauslese are the others). But dig beneath the surface a bit, and you’ll find a whole range of under-the-radar, undiscovered, hidden gems from this region.
To explore the full range of styles from Tokaji, we’re going to focus today on a terrific winery called Kiralyudvar. Founded in the 11th century, the winery has spent most of its thousand years as the property of the Hungarian royal family. After World War I, the estate was transferred to the Tokaj Research Institute of Viticulture and Oenology, and by the 1990s, the estate had fallen well out of fame.
That was the state of affairs in 1997, when Anthony Hwang came along. Hwang, a partner in famed Loire superstar Domaine Huet (featured in a recent Full Pull offering), purchased Kiralyudvar, and brought with him Huet’s winemaker Noel Pinguet to consult on the project. Fifteen years later, Kiralyudvar’s star has risen immensely, no surprise given the folks involved.
I have enjoyed every bottle I have tasted from this producer, and am thrilled to have a chance to write about, and offer, several today:
2008 Kiralyudvar Tokaji Peszgo Henye (Sparkling)
A bottle to make you reconsider everything you know about Hungarian wine. This was a showstopper in a recent tasting I attended, for my palate clearly superior to several Champagnes priced well above it. It starts with bready aromatics of toast, smoke, and wheat, which give way to a dry, rich palate, full of bread, earth, and citrus oil. The intensity and fine texture were stunning to me at the tariff listed.
A single vineyard (a biodynamic site called Henye), single-vintage sparkling wine, made with 85% Furmint and 15% Harslevelu (the two primary grapes of the region), this goes through primary fermentation in – you guessed it – Hungarian oak barrels, using only indigenous Tokaji yeasts.
It gets better.
While the Champenois must use a mixture of still Champagne and sugar for their dosage, the Hungarians instead have the perfect nectar sitting around for dosage: Tokaji Aszu; in this case a special Aszu-Esszencia sweet wine from Kiralyudvar’s Danczka vineyard. Brilliant!
2010 Kiralyudvar Tokaji Furmint Sec
When you taste something new, you always try to put it into the context of known quantities. In this case, my notes read: Chenin Blanc + Marsanne = Furmint Sec?
A dry Hungarian white, this clocks in at 12% alcohol, with plenty of lipsmacking acidity. Look for notes floral and nutty, flinty and salty on the nose. The palate contains a core of white-pepper-dusted pear and citrus fruit, and an insistent mineral character that just won’t quit. I love this as a versatile food wine, and it wouldn’t be out of place on a Thanksgiving table (except for the fact that your family and friends will be wondering what the hell you’re serving them).
2003 Kiralyudvar Tokaji Cuvee Ilona (500ml)
A tweener wine for Kiralyudvar, one that has much of the sweetness of the Aszu wines but does not require the total adherence to botrytized berries. Stats are 11.5% alc, 190 g/l (19%) residual sugar, 7.2 g/l total acidity, and the total package drinks like something in between a Sauternes and a more traditional Tokaji Aszu. Look for honey and caramel-drenched marmalade and apricot, all lifted by a cooling mineral tone that runs throughout.
Terrific bang for the buck here, especially considering this is almost a decade past vintage. The current release is 2008, and I think the only reason this 2003 is still kicking around town is that no one knows how damned good it is.
2006 Kiralyudvar Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos (500ml)
And the piece de resistance.
Tokaji Aszu ranges from 3 Puttonyos (least sweet) to 6 Puttonyos (most sweet), and these are rare treasures. All the Aszu wines combined represent about 1% of Tokaji’s total production.
This comes in at 11% alc, 203 g/l (20.3%) residual sugar, and 8.0 g/l total acidity. It’s the first 6 Puttonyos Kiralyudvar has produced since the 2003 vintage, and it’s a stunner. Honeyed orange peel, salty mineral tang, botrytized notes of truffle and caramel, fresh lift of eucalyptus: it’s all there, on a dense, achingly delicious frame. Lovely now, but come on: this wine’s best years are well ahead of it, and I could easily see this lasting for decades and decades. A great Tokaji Aszu like this is a singular tasting experience.
Please limit order requests to 3 bottles of each wine, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.